Parishioners have got their first priest in more than three years after they launched a high-profile advertising campaign to attract a dedicated clerical leader.

The parishes of Peldon, and Great and Little Wigborough had been without a spiritual leader for years and decided to take matters into their own hands by launching a website including drone footage, videos, social media engagement and a recruitment advertisement funded by the Diocese of Chelmsford.

Their prayers were answered when the Rev Judith Bevan stepped forward and she has now been appointed as Priest in Charge of the parishes of West Mersea and East Mersea, Peldon, and Great and Little Wigborough after previously having served in Pontypridd, South Wales.

The Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Rev Roger Morris, welcomed the appointment and recognised the extensive efforts put in by the parishioners.

He said: “We are delighted with this appointment. We know Jude impressed and inspired people when she came for interview. We also know the parishes, who put so much creativity and energy into finding Jude, are hugely excited about her arrival in the autumn.”

Gazette: Jude Bevan will join Mersea from Pontypridd

Mrs Bevan had previously studied art in Manchester before training as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

She then worked as a drama teacher in east London before going into the church.

Mrs Bevan said: “I am really looking forward to joining the Mersea team and am full of excitement at what lies ahead.

“It’s always hard to leave people and ministries behind when God calls us into something new,” she added.

Churchwarden John Walker, who was the driving force behind the campaign for a permanent priest, said: “We are lively parishes with plenty going on and we didn’t want to face another year without a leader so we took matters into our own hands.

“The hard work has paid off and we have been blessed with Jude as our new priest.”